When we last left our intrepid heroes, they had just finished cleaning out the Temple of the Darkening Dawn and wanted to figure out how to close and lock the door. Or possibly blow the whole thing up. Deciding the latter was excessive and they didn’t have much expertise in the former, the group was going to see if Garden could recommend a good lock. Except Garden had disappeared. Being as this was not an entirely unusual turn of events, the group just blocked off the temple with the bar that had been there before for now, intending to return later with a better means of securing the door. They went to leave, confident Garden would turn up turn up at his shop, or possibly was fleecing someone in the Warrens on the way out.
But when the group got to the Blade, several heard a strange gurgling sound, like someone gargling while yodeling through butterscotch pudding. Recognizing the dulcet tones of the Aquan tongue anywhere, William and Shandri could understand the voice was saying, “Tall lady! Tall lady in the purple sash!” in a rather slurred manner.
Translating, Charissa and the others came to a halt. Into the circle of the light came sloshing a gnome-sized wet column of grape jelly that gave off a distinctive smell of wine. Charissa decided it was a wine elemental, and no one in the party, not the Lathander priests, nor anyone else, had a differing theory. So, sobering it up wasn’t possible, as a tap from Grapes of Wrath’s sober side might kill it!
It went on to say it knew Garden, as he wore the same sash Charissa did (the Order of the Vine). Garden had talked to him about the ruckus in the Temple the previous night and had given him a drink to settle his nerves. He said his name was… well, there was no good translation in Aquan that William could effect on dry land, and as everyone was fresh out of butterscotch pudding to yodel through while gargling, the creature said they could call him Rich. And his water elemental familiar was called Oodoogoobloop.
Charissa asked, and Rich accepted the offer that he needed to be sober right now, and that being sober would not, in fact, kill him, and tapped him with the sober end of her hammer. The purple cleared, and revealed a very small golden octopus inside a water elemental familiar.
(At several times in the ensuing conversation, Evelyn had looked at Rich in a slightly covetous, hungry way. You see, with new ships in town from Kara Tur, Evelyn had been at a few sushi parties recently, including ones were where small live octopi were eaten. Did they taste good? You do realize that it’s fashionable to eat octopus right now? That’s In, this season.)
A bit more coherent now, Rich explained he’d seen Garden be captured and dragged off by little dark figures who were dressed in rags and brought shadow with them. The group recognized this description with a sinking feeling – dark creepers, those murderous little thugs they’d fought on Gutter Street a couple months back.
Rich said they’d gone out the back of the Blade, and upon showing them the area, Steven and Evelyn saw something they’d both seen once before: crackling purple energy across a doorway. It was a portal. William recognized them too from descriptions he’d made notes on in class, and this one was active. Rich was miffed, as he was down here to study them (amongst other things) and hadn’t known the key phrases or actions to activate it himself. Realizing the portal might not stay active for much longer, Brothers Randal and Dorn said they’d return to the Temple to report the kidnapping while Darvin stayed with them as they attempted to mount a rescue. With that, the group strode through, weapons at the ready (and Rich and Oodoogoobloop on William’s floating disk, along with the invisible chest).
The corridor on the other side was broad but unlit, and getting back through the portal? No guarantees. Nervous but determined, the group carried on. After a while, they spied a cunningly dyed piece of canvas stretching across the floor, a pit trap for the unwitting. Thinking themselves dreadfully clever, Steven whisked it aside – and found himself attacked!
A pair of hideous abominations were there, with thick, ten-foot-long snake bodies, terrible clacking beaks like those of a giant squid, surrounded by four short tentacles that writhed hungrily. Had the group been more conversant about the denizens of the Underdark, they might have recognized the monstrosities as gricks. But alas they did not, so could only try to kill the monsters that attacked them.
Steven and Charissa were lashed and bitten, and in fighting back, found that the flesh of the creatures was resistant to ordinary weapons. Charissa switched from gun to magic hammer, and William added magic to Steven’s sword. He slew one with a single stroke, decapitating it and making its misformed excuse for a head land in Evelyn’s arms.
Then the corridor beyond went unnaturally dark and knives started being flung. Both Darvin and Rich summoned creatures to attack the new threat of dark creepers, Darvin calling a lantern archon, and Rich a water elemental. Both of these creatures could see in the dark, and soon had dispatched one dark creeper each. When dark creepers die, they explode into light, and the others waited until these flashes occurred to target their spells and weapons at the creepers. As Steven finished off the other grick, William was able to send four of the dark creepers to sleep, those that hadn’t already died or fled.
At last, all enemies were dead or unconscious. The group tied and gagged the four sleeping ones, and William pulled out his zone of truth chalice he’d gotten from the Knights of the Vine. Charissa bopped all the creepers with the drunken end of the Grapes of Wrath, and William took a sip from the chalice (as it was a zone effect). When asked questions, one belligerent creeper was surly and claimed ignorance, but the group soon realized he was resisting the magic. Another of his clan hadn’t been so lucky. Drunk, bespelled, and still sleepy, he answered all of their questions with stunned apathy.
Garden was an enemy of their clan, and he’d been kidnapped and taken to the dark stalker, the leader of their clan. Who had a pair of pet darkmantles. The group extracted the way to activate the portal, the route into the clan stronghold, the traps, the number of people, and when they were done, asking Darvin if he had anything else to ask. Darvin blinked, borrowed William’s notepad, and asked more exacting questions about the numbers of dark creepers all over the city and their plans. Smart guy!
The group gagged them all again and put them in the grick pit, covering it back up again and warning them that since they’d just betrayed their clan, making noise would be bad.
Garden awaited their rescue. Onward!